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act of devotion from its perils. The pilgrim might become a martyr. Year after year came back the few survivors of a long train of pilgrims, no longer radiant with pious pride at the accomplishment of their holy purpose, rich in precious reliques, or even in the more costly treasures of the East ; but stealing home, famished, wounded, mutilated, with lamentable tales of their own sufferings, and of those who had died of the ill-usage of the barbarous unbelievers.
At length the afflictions of the Christians found a voice which woke indignant Europe—an apostle who could rouse warlike Latin Christendom to encounter with equal fanaticism this new outburst of the fanaticism of Islam. This was the mission of the hermit Peter.
PETER the Hermit is supposed, but only supposed, to have been of gentle birth. He was of ignoble stature, but with a quick and flashing eye ; his spare, sharp person seemed instinct with the fire which worked within his restless soul. He was a Frank (of Amiens in Picardy), and therefore spoke most familiarly the language of that people, ever ready for adventurous warfare, especially warfare in the cause of religion. Peter had exhausted, without satisfying the cravings of his religious zeal, all the ordinary excitements, the studies, the austerities and mortifications, the fasts and prayers of a devout life. Still yearning for more powerful emotions, he had retired into the solitude of the strictest and severest cloister. There his undoubting faith beheld in the visions of his disturbed and enthralled imagination revelations from heaven. In those days such a man could not but undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, more especially in times when martyrdom might be his reward. The deeper his
feelings at visiting the holy places, the more strong would be his sorrow and indignation at their desecration by their rude and cruel masters. Peter saw with a bleeding heart the sufferings and degradation of his brethren ; his blood turned to fire ; the martial Frank was not extinct within him. In an interview with Simeon, the persecuted patriarch, Peter ventured to rebuke his despondency. When Simeon deplored the hopeless weakness of the Byzantine Empire, the natural laws and protectors of the Christians in Syria, Peter fearlessly promised him the succour of Western Christendom. His vow seemed to obtain the ratification of God. Prostrate in the temple, he heard, as it were, the voice of our Lord himself, 'Rise, Peter, go forth to make known the tribulations of my people ; the hour is come for the delivery of my servants, for the recovery of the Holy Places !'
Peter fully believed in his own mission, and was therefore believed by others. He landed in Italy, he hastened to Rome. The Pope, Urban, was kindled by his fervour, acknowledged him as a prophet, and gave full sanction to his announcement of the immediate deliverance of Jerusalem.
The Hermit traversed Italy, crossed the Alps, with indefatigable restlessness went from province to province, from city to city. His appearance commanded attention, his austerity respect, his language instantaneous and vehement sympathy. He rode on a mule, with a crucifix in his hand, his head and feet bare ; his dress was a long robe girt with a cord, and a hermit's cioak of the coarsest stuff.
He preached in the pulpits, in the roads, in the market-places. His eloquence was that which stirs the heart of the people, for it came from his own, brief, figurative, full of bold apostrophes ; it was mingled with his own tears, with his own groans ; he beat his breast; the contagion spread throughout his audience. His preaching appealed to every passion, to valour and shame, to indignation and pity, to the pride of the warrior, the compassion of the man, the religion of the Christian, to the love of the Brethren, to the hatred of the Unbeliever, aggra
vated by his insulting tyranny, to
for the Redeemer and the Saints, to the desire of expiating sin, to the hope of eternal life. Sometimes he found persons who, like himself, had visited the Holy Land; he brought them forth before the people, and made them bear witness to what they had seen or what they had suffered. He appealed to them as having beheld Christian blood poured out wantonly as water, the foulest indignities perpetrated on the sacred places in Jerusalem. He invoked the Holy Angels, the Saints in Heaven, the Mother of God, the Lord Himself, to bear witness to his truth. He called on the holy places-on Sion, on Calvary, on the Holy Sepulchre—to lift up their voices and implore their deliverance from sacrilegious profanation. He held up the crucifix, as if Christ Himself were imploring their succour.
His influence was extraordinary, even beyond the immediate object of his mission. Old enemies came to be reconciled ; the worldliest to forswear the world ; prelates to entreat the Hermit's intercession. Gifts showered upon him ; them all to the poor. His wonders were repeated from mouth to mouth ; all ages, both sexes, crowded to touch his garments ; the very hairs which dropped from his mule were caught and treasured as reliques.
Western Christendom, particularly France, was thus prepared for the outburst of militant religion. Nothing was wanted but a plan, leaders, and organisation. Such was the state of things when Pope Urban presented himself to the Council of Clermont, in Auvergne.
Where all the motives which stir the mind and heart, the most impulsive passion, and the profoundest policy, conspire together, it is impossible to discover which has the dominant influence in guiding to a certain course of action. Urban, no doubt, with his strong religiousness of character, was not superior to the enthusiasm of his times ; to him the Crusade was the cause of God. This is manifest from the earnest simplicity of his memorable speech in the Council. No one not fully possessed by the frenzy could have communicated it.
Never, perhaps, did a single speech of man work such extraordinary and lasting results as that of Urban II. at the Council of Clermont. Urban, as a native of France, spoke, no doubt, the language of the country ; his speech has survived only in the colder and more stately ecclesiastical Latin ; and probably has preserved but few of those pathetic and harrowing details of the cruelty, the licentiousness, the sacrilege of the Turks, which told most effectively on his shuddering and maddening audience. He dwelt on the sanctity, on the wonders of the land of promise ; the land chosen of God, to whom all the earth belonged as His own inheritance ; the land of which the history had been recorded both in the Old and New Testament. Of this land the foul infidels were now the lords—of the Holy City itself, hallowed by the Life and Death of the Saviour. Whose soul melted not within ? whose bowels were not stirred with shame and sorrow? The Holy Temple had become not only a den of thieves, but the dwelling-place of devils. The churches, even that of the Holy Sepulchre itself, had become stalls for cattle, and Christian men were massacred within the holy precincts. The heavenly fire had ceased to descend ; the Lord would not visit His defiled sanctuary. While Christians were shedding Christian blood, they were sinfully abandoning this sacred field for their valour, and yielding up their brethren in Christ to the yoke, to the sword of the Unbeliever; they were warring on each other, when they ought to be soldiers of Christ. He assured them that the Saviour Him. self, the God of armies, would be their leader and their guide in battle. There was no passion which he left unstirred. "The wealth of your enemies shall be yours ; ye shall plunder their treasures. Ye serve a commander who will not permit his soldiers to want bread, or a just reward for their services.' He offered absolution for all sins (there was no crime which might not be redeemed by this act of obedience to God); absolution without penance to all who would take up arms in this sacred cause. It was better to fall in battle than not to